It’s a team that hasn’t won a division title in more than three decades. But these are different times for the much-maligned club from Ohio.
It’s a team that has emphasized defense this offseason when it comes to upgrading its roster. And this was already talented Cleveland Browns’ club led by Kevin Stefanski, the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year. His squad is coming off the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2002. The Browns upended the Steelers and then gave the Super Bowl-bound Chiefs a fight.
So which five emerging players bear watching this year? The franchise is in pursuit of a division title for the first time since 1989 and some breakout performances and could elevate the team to the top spot in the AFC North.
5. LT Jedrick Willis Jr.
One of the league’s more balanced attacks this past season benefitted from solid offensive line play and a group up front that got better as the year progressed. Kevin Stefanski’s team ranked 16th in the league in total offense and only the Ravens and Titans gained more yards per game on the ground.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw more than three times as many touchdown passes (26) as interceptions (8) and was sacked only 26 times. The Browns turned over the ball just 16 times compared to 28 miscues in 2019.
First-round tackle Jedrick Willis Jr. started 15 regular-season contests and two playoff tilts for his club. Via Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he had his share of penalties and needs work on his run blocking. But all fixable with 2021 on the horizon.